Prince William County Virginia Clerk’s Loose Papers

The Court: Did you say inspection of the track? Mr. Browning

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The Court: Did you say inspection of the track?

Mr. Browning: I said inspection of cars.

Witness: A train of cars arriving at a freight terminal. Immediately after its arrival two inspectors

start an inspection of the track. One man proceeds down one side of the train, and the other man on the other side of the train until they get to the end. Then the usual practice is for the man who came down on the right hand side to return on the left hand side. The man who came down on the left hand side to return on the right hand side, giving both men the opportunity of catching something which the other fellow may possibly not have seen. Now, those men do very little else. That is their main duty.

Q. That is at terminals – freight terminals? Answer – Yes.

Q. When a train arrives? Answer – Yes.

Q. Now, the inspection with reference to frequency, and at what points? Answer – Now, when the train departs, the train crew themselves make an inspection of the train. I mean by the train crew the two brakemen. They usually begin at the head end to work back towards the rear. If they take any exceptions, those exceptions are reported to the yard master, and if the defect or whatever they may find, is not cured right there, the car is cut out and put on our repair track. Now, the train proceeds. The brakeman and the conductor, who are on the rear of that train, watch the moving cars on all curves. You always find those fellows sitting at an open window smelling to see if they can smell a hot box. An experienced man can detect that instantly. They watch around curves to see if they can see fire flying, day or night. When the train stops at passing sidings to meet other trains, it is his duty, if he is not required on the rear to flag, to go forward until he meets the front man making inspection of the running gear on that side of the train, and then they cross over going to their stations again, making inspection. Those inspections are made at meeting points with other trains, at water stops, coal bin stops, or at any other point where the train may be delayed long enough to make such inspection.

Q. Mr. Briant, If car 25227 of the C & O Railroad, which was a part of extra and through freight 592, arrived from the coal fields of West Virginia at Gladstone on the 10th of February, 1915, and was there officially inspected, and remained there until the 23rd of February, 1915, and then moved on to Strathmore, and there was officially inspected on that day, and the through freight moved on from there north, the train stopping at Lindsay, and there inspected by the train crew, and the train stopping at Culpepper, and there inspected by the train crew, and made no other steps from there to the point of accident, would such inspection as I have detailed be a compliance with the inspection of an ordinary standard railroad? Answer – It would.

Mr. Mackey: If it were properly made, you mean?

Mr. Browning: Certainly

Mr. Mackey: That ought to be added to the hypothetical question.

Mr. Browning: If such inspection were properly made. Put that there, Mr. Stenographer.

Q. After the amendment to the question suggested by Capt. Mackey, do you make the same answer – Yes, sir.

Q. Mr. Briant, you have said, in answer to a previous question, that upon your examination of the truck of this car in question, at the point of accident, you found the tie-bar broken; what would be the effect of the breaking of the tie-bar upon the rest of the south end truck, where the tie-bar was broken, if you know? Answer – It would very materially weaken the truck.

Q. How would it weaken it? (Note the model is produced.)

Q. Mr. Briant, the Southern Railway Company has kindly agreed to let us have this model that you may illustrate. Answer – Standing as I am now, gentlemen, this truck is in exactly the reverse position. Standing as we are now, facing the railroad, this truck is in exactly the reverse position from the way it was on the track. I mean by that, that the truck was moving north, and my examination was made from the east side of the track. To illustrate, however, I will turn the truck around, and I hope you will follow me. I will present the perfect side of the truck to you first. These, gentlemen, are the arch bars, these two bars here. This bar underneath, is called the tie-bar. This is the journal box, and these are the journal box-bolts. These are the column-bolts (indicating the different parts referred to). The function of this tie-bar, as you can see, is to hold these boxes in a vertical position in this truck. Without the tie-bar there would be nothing to prevent this box from turning in an outward direction, provided, of course, the car was moving in that way, and then, of course, the box would turn this way eventually. I do not mean to say it would do it instantly, but the function of the tie-bar is plain; it is to tie those boxes together. Now, when this bar broke right at the column-bolt hole, the structure of the truck was weakened. As the arch-bars were bent upwards, the truck was bound to come lower and closer to the rail.

Q. Have you finished, Mr. Briant? Answer – Yes, I have gone as far as your question took me, as I understand.

Q. what would that result in? Answer – That would eventually result in this broken end of the tie-bar, which you see (You understand the train was moving north, and assuming that this represents the perfect tie-bar) finally striking the ties. We saw evidence of that in the scare on the ties north of Bristow Station. As it continued north, the marks made by the broken piece of tie-bar became more markedly and plainer, and as we discovered after, not finding the broken piece of tie-bar, that piece of the tie-bar was broken off entirely, and was curled back in a sort of U shape, and the journal box-bolts were broken. I did not find the journal box nut which I see here on the table, but I saw it a short time after it was found in the possession of Mr. Flanagan.

Q. Now, when this truck became low enough for the arch-bar to sand ballast, as we call this lower bolster here, to get very close to the rail, this large nut that you see underneath encountered the frog immediately north of Bristow Station – what we call the house truck, which turns in behind the station at Bristow, and at that point it was broken off. The heel of a frog is very heavy metal, and in striking the heel of that frog this nut, with the remaining portion of the bolt in it, was broken off – sheared off, if you want to call it that. It had struck it sufficient blow to knock it off. Proceeding on in a northerly direction, the truck encountered the spur at the pump house spur, and there is where the damage was done which resulted in final accident. The truck had traveled that distance, made the second frog and over I don’t know, but I assume that what followed was this. I understood you had a model of a spring rail frog?

Q. Yes. (Note: The same is produced. Answer – Now, gentlemen, here is what this column-bolt encountered. As the truck came down on the track, the column-bolt encoundered this part of the frog (indicating0, and knocked it off. It was right here in this space that we found this column-bolt. Now, from the different scars, my conclusion was that , that truck derailed here. Now, the effect of a truck derailing on a spring rail frog is this: You see you have a guard rail over here which is to protect the truck on the other side. If this part of your frog is destroyed to any extent, the effect is for the outside of the wheel to catch right here on this spring rail of the frog. When it does that, it pushes this spring rail out to such extent that, instead of the wheel, after it has gone on across the frog, instead of the wheel again encountering this rail, the flange of the wheel travels right along in this fashion (indicating), pushes your spring rail out sufficient to allow your wheel to drop right in there (indicating). Then you have a derailment. This spring, such as you see on here, has a metal case covering entirely so as to protect against the weather, or dirt, or ballast, or anything else; the evidence of what I saw was best shown by the spring case on this bolt and spring. There was the flange mark of the wheel showing just what I say had happened, and that wheel fell right down on that spring case. Now, this box-bolt nut I didn’t find. I can say this, however, that the box-bolt nut was not found south of this frog.

Q. Did you find the column-bolt nut that has been introduced as evidence, and about which you have been talking? Answer – No, sir, I didn’t find it.

Q. Who did find it? Answer – Mr. Flanagan?

Q. Will you look at the journal box-bolt that I hand you, and say whether that was broken off or sheared off? Answer – Broken off.

Q. Will you tell the court and jury what the position of that journal box-bolt nut was before it was broken off? Answer – It was screwed on the end of one of those bolts.

Q. Mr. Briant, it has been testified to in this case that the holes in the involved arch-bars on the car 25227 were oblong or elongated, and I think that Mr. Puckett and Mr. Fuller have testified that the effect of an elongated hole 1/8 of an inch would be to produce just such a condition as this accident gives us. What have you to say about that? Do you understand my question? Answer – Yes, I get your question. I think that such a theory as that is entirely incompatible with the effects as we saw them.

Mr. Hall: I submit, your Honor, that is not an answer to the question. He asked a hypothetical


Mr. Browning: I do not object to the answer, your Honor.

Mr. Hall: I simply wanted him to answer the question. Answer – In my opinion it is not so.

By Mr. Browning:

Q. Why, Mr. Briant? Answer – Because to have brought about such a condition as you say the other gentlemen have testified to, they have got to leave strictly out of consideration the fact that your tie-bar, without question, broke first. If the tie-bar broke first, then I will grant you that what Mr. Fuller and Mr. Puckett say could have happened next.

Q. Do you mean could have happened at the time next-could have happened at once? Answer – No, I don’t mean to say at once. The further that truck traveled, the more that condition was aggravated, and eventually it is probable that, that might occur. Take the position of the arch-bars, as you see them right now, without the support of that tie-brace, the arch-bars are in perfect condition. To illustrate what I have just said, the holes do not fit together. Why? Because there is no arch-bar on there to keep your trucks rigid.

Q. Did you say no arch-bar --- Answer – I meant to say no tie-bar. The loss of that tie-bar and the truck assuming the shape that it is in right now, would without question elongate the holes top and bottom to some extent.

Q. Mr. Briant, how are those holes made originally when the arch-bars are constructed with reference to the size of the bolts passing through them? Answer – The holes in the arch-bars are not punched; they are drilled. The drilling of the arch-bars contributes a great deal more to the strength of the bars than if the holes were punched. That is obvious. The holes are drilled sufficiently larger than the bolts to enable these bolts to fit a rough cast box. Of course we have standard type boxes for these steel trucks, but they are cast, and they have burs on them. I should say that the hole must necessarily be a little bit larger that the bolt in order to admit of free access of the bolt around the rough casting of the journal box.


By Mr. Hall:

Q. Mr. Briant, I understood that when you get to the scene of the wreck, after making a general observation, you asked if you could be of any assistance, and then retired to the tool car; is that correct. Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. In your general observation you did not make any particular examination of anything; you just looked around there and saw how things were lying, I suppose? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. How long did you stay in the tool car? Answer – I can’t recall. I presume I was in and out of the tool car at short intervals all through the night.

Q. Do you mean you did not stay in the tool car as you said in the first place? I understood you to say you stayed in the tool car until shortly before daylight? Answer – I don’t think I said that, that I went back into the tool cars, and stayed until shortly before daylight.

Q. With Mr. Eddins, didn’t you say that? Answer – No, sir.

Q. Then you didn’t say it because it was raining so hard you went to the tool car and then came back? Answer – No, sir, I don’t think I said that.

Q. Shortly before daylight you did go there to try to find out what the cause was? Answer – I went to the derailed car, yes.

Q. Who did you go with? Answer – With Mr. Flanagan.

Q. Was Mr. Brightwell there then? Answer – No, sir. I don’t think he was.

Q. If Mr. Flanagan says Mr. Brightwell was there then, do you say that he is mistaken, or not? Answer – I can’t recall. I don’t recall whether Mr. Brightwell was there, or not. Mr. Eddins was present.

Q. Now, on direct examination you said you went with Flanagan north to where the car was standing, and began to make this examination. Now was Mr. Eddins with you then? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. You omitted to mention Mr. Eddins. Answer – Possibly I did if the question was framed that way.

Q. You say that by looking at the part of the tie-bar that was on that truck you could tell it was a fresh break? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. And made within an hour; is that your language, or shortly before? Answer – I said shortly before.

Q. What did you mean – shortly before the accident, or shortly before the time you went there? Answer – Shortly before I went there.

Q. You went there next morning at daylight? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. And you can say positively to the jury that you know positively that this piece of iron was broken within an hour before? Answer – No, sir, I didn’t state that.

Q. An hour before the accident. We evidently misunderstood you on direct examination. You were asked what that fresh break in that bar meant, and you said it must have indicated that it was a break about an hour or immediately theretofore, or the rust would have set in. Now, do you mean to say that, that iron bar was broken within an hour before the accident. Answer – Yes, sir, I think I can say that positively.

Q. By looking at it next morning? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. After it had rained on it all night lng? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. Notwithstanding you said on direct examination that oxidation would have set in within an hour; is that your answer – Yes, sir.

Q. Then had any oxidation set in when you got there next morning? Answer – None to speak of.

Q. Then oxidation did not set in within an hour? Answer – You are evidently trying to confuse me or confound your question.

The Court: Mr. Briant, if you wish it, I will have the stenographer read the answer.

Witness: Let the gentleman go ahead.

By Mr. Hall:

Q. I want to know whether or not you said that you could say positively that this iron was broken within an hour before that accident, because if it had not been oxidation would have set in – rust, as you call it; did you say that on direct examination? Answer – I think I did, yes, sir.

Q. Now when you examined that iron for the first time carefully, was the next morning, wasn’t it? Answer – Yes, sir, just about daylight.

Q. After it had been raining all night long? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. I ask you if any oxidation had set in on that iron? Answer – No, sir.

q. Then you were mistaken on your direct examination in saying that oxidation would have set in within an hour after the break? Answer – That does not alter the fact that oxidation would have set in, and it would have progressed to such extent that it would have been plainly visible if that break had been made for any length of time previous to the time I saw it. There are degrees of oxidation.

Q. I simply want to know. If that bar had been broken four hours before the accident, or three hours before the accident, do you think you could have told the difference by looking at it next morning, after it rained on it all night long? Answer – I would have seen evidence of oxidation.

Q. I don’t get you straight yet. Did you see any evidence of oxidation? Answer – No, sir, I do not recall seeing any at all.

Q. And you think if it had been broken two or three or four hours before the accident, instead of one hour before the accident, you would have seen oxidation? Answer – I don’t see why so much stress is put on the one hour.

Q. Because you stated on your direct examination that you are certain the thing had broken in an hour before the accident, and I simply want to know how you know it. You said on your direct examination simply because there would have been some oxidation; now, is that a correct answer, or not? Answer – There would have been some evidence of discoloration if that break had occurred any length of time previous to the accident. The one hour previous to the accident was only an approximate estimate as to the length of time that it might have occurred before the accident, and still show no evidence of oxidation.

Q. Now, I understand you wish to change your answer. Now answer me just how long before the accident do you now think that iron was broken? Answer – I can’t say if it is a question of such importance. I can’t give an expert opinion as to the oxidation of metals. I am not an expert on metals.

q. You are not an expert on metals? Answer – No, sir.

Q. You are not expert enough to know whether the break you saw on that tie was fresh or not? Answer – I am expert enough to tell that.

Q. simply by observation? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. Is that your theory? Answer – Yes, sir.

Mr. Hall: I submit that, that testimony is just like any other man’s testimony. It is an opinion on a

matter of which he has no expert knowledge. I move that it be stricken out.

The Court: I think any man on the jury can tell whether a break is fresh, or not. Now I understand

the witness changes his testimony, and says he don’t know.

Witness: Except it must have occurred very recently.

The Court: Q. I understood you to say positively at first that it must have been within an hour. If

it is wrong, the stenographer can read it.

Mr. Browning: He said within an hour, and he said approximately.

Mr. Hall: He didn’t qualify it before.

The Court: Now, I am going to let it stay, whether fresh or old; I don’t think that requires an

expert. How long it will take iron to begin to rust, I don’t know.

Mr. Hall: I simply made the point that, that was opinion evidence, which is not admissible, as I

understand it.

The Court: I think any one can say whether a piece of iron is freshly broken, or not. (Exception is

noted by counsel for Southern Railway.)

Mr. Hall: Q. How long does it take to run a train, gong 35 miles an hour, from Culpepper to

Bristow? Do you know the distance? Answer – I don’t know exactly. Q. do you know the approximate distance? Answer – No, I can’t say I do that. Q. Well assume that it is about thirty miles, and not over that; if this tie-bar had been broken off as much as an hour, it might have been broken before you left Culpepper, might it not? (Pause)

The Court: If you can answer it, I will let you do so, to save time to consider that. If the train runs

thirty--- Answer – (Interposing) It could have broken before it got to Culpepper, yes, sir.

By Mr. Hall:

Q. Do you know whether or not it did break before it got to Culpepper? Answer – Judging by the evidence of what I saw there at Bristow, I don’t think so.

Q. We are talking about the tie-bar break? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. What other evidences than those you have already stated make you think that, that tie-bar broke within less than an hour before the accident? Answer – Because I don’t believe the structure of that truck would have withstood – would have permitted the truck to have traveled any great distance before the truck broke down.

Q. Do I understand you to modify your opinion again, and say you believe that, that tie-bar broke within less than an hour of the accident? Answer – Put two and two together, and I say yes.

Q. Let us put one at a time, and not two and two. I want to know if your opinion is that, that tie-bar broke more than an hour before the accident, or less than an hour? Answer – Yes, I do. Now, you are helping me.

Q. You think it broke less than an hour before the accident? Answer – Yes.

Q. Did you find either this box-bolt of this column-bolt? Answer – No, sir.

Q. How do you know that the column-bolt was found right in the point of this frog where you placed it and showed it to the jury? Answer – Mr. Flanagan indicated the point where he picked it up.

Q Then he told you? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. Then your testimony to the jury is based on what Mr. Flanagan told you? Answer – Yes, in that respect.

Q. Do you know when you examined this track here that this frog was not the frog just north of Bristow Station? Answer – No, but it is a similar frog.

Q. Didn’t you know that there was one frog north of Bristow? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. And another at this accident? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. Then, when you placed this frog in the middle, and knew that there was one at the accident, it didn’t make any difference? Answer – I merely use the frog to illustrate it with.

Q. Where was this box-bolt found? Answer – I can’t say of my own knowledge.

Q. You don’t know where this box-bolt was found? Answer – No, sir, I have not so stated.

Q. You didn’t know anything about this box-bolt until Mr. Flanagan showed it to you? Answer – No, sir.

Q. Did you talk to any southern Railway people at that time about the accident? Answer – No, sir.

Q. You talked to Mr. Flanagan, I suppose? Answer – Yes, I did.

Q. When you all found the tie-bar, who was with you? Answer – Who do you mean by “You all”?

Q. Did you find the tie-bar? Answer – No.

Q. You were not there when they found that? Answer – No.

Q. You did not find anything about the wreck? Answer – Oh, yes, I found out a good many things.

Q. I didn’t mean to say to find out anything, but you didn’t find either of these pieces? Answer – No, sir.

Q. So, far as the cause of this accident is concerned, all you know is what you found by an examination of the truck? Answer – Surely not.

Q. What else? Answer – The evidences on the ground – the scars on the track, and the marks on the frog were an open book, to a certain extent.

Q. Where did you find the first mark on the ties? Answer – Just north of the station grounds at Bristow.

Q. Will you explain to the jury how this piece of tie-bar, when the train is running this way, could strike the track before this column-bolt? Answer – How is that, sir?

Q. How could this piece of tie-bar, the broken end of the tie-bar, strike the track before the head of the column-bolt? Does not the column-bolt project towards the track than the broken end of this tie-bar? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. Was not the train running with the column-bolt in front and the broken end of the tie-bar behind? Answer – Yes, sir.

Q. Then how could the piece of the tie-bar have struck the track before the column-bolt?

Mr. Browning: Designate which piece.

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